A Big Lake | Punam 0+

(Vies Nouvelles | Punam), Olivier Meys- Liping Weng, BEL | Srbsko a 4erná Hora 2004, original version / English subtitles, 83 min

A Big Lake
Seventeen years ago, the construction of the biggest dam in the world began on the Chinese river Danin. Compared in significance with the Great Wall of China, the Three Gorges Dam has become a symbol of the expansion and megalomania of the Communist government, to the detriment of the living standards of ordinary people. Today, the Guo family, which settled on the slopes above the river as far back as the time of the Third Empire, is threatened by a modern wonder of the world. In 2009, during the last phase of deliberate flooding, their house will be on the very verge of the banks of the artificial lake and all six members of the family will have to abandon it. Using a grainy visual effect, the narrative is split into the past and the present, which is already marked by the likely future displacement of the family and the forced loss of their traditional way of life. Those affected do not themselves protest, however, and treat the situation as inevitable. Footage of flooded fields and the carved roofs of old buildings protruding above the water level thus provide the only critical testimony. The situation of one family and the difference in views of different generations lead to more general themes, such as the decline of the countryside, and with it the last vestiges of original Chinese culture, and the progressive ascendancy of towns, which represent the current regime.

The child's voice of nine–year–old Punam Tamang transports us to the Nepal city of Bhaktapuru. There we are presented with a stark description of the hard life of this young girl and the dismal social conditions in which she lives. Punam's mother died when she was only five. She was left with her father, her newborn sister Rabina and her two–year–old brother Krishna. Now her father works from sunrise to sundown in a rice factory, and so during the daytime Punam assumes the roles of head of the family, caregiver, and homemaker. All of the sibling attend an English school, which is relatively cheap by local standards. The film also takes us into the world Punam's friends, who have to work in a quarry or brick–making factory to help their families get by. The film captures the hard work the children are required to perform and also takes a peek into the poor five–grade school that represents Punam's symbol of hope. She believes that education ushers in progress and is the only opportunity for improving their situation – perhaps bringing about new job opportunities in better conditions. We look at the situation through the eyes of this young Asian girl, who dreams of becoming a teacher and helping other children in situations like hers.


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